The wonder of oak - part 1


At Petrel HQ, we are busy making for the upcoming Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design furniture show at the end of August, where we'll be exhibiting three pieces. We're really excited about showing our work there and looking forward to meeting people, who'll be able to see and get their hands on our work (a great thing to be able to do with furniture.)

We're passionate about the wonder and diversity of British woods at Petrel and one of the pieces we'll be exhibiting celebrates a wood often associated with the British Isles; the mighty oak.

Our design will pay tribute to oak in a variety of forms, including 4000-year old bog oak from the Fens and brown oak.

Brown oak is formed as a result of a beefsteak fungus growing on the tree, which reacts with the tannin in the tree and changes the colour of the wood, making it a glorious darker and richer brown, occasionally with dramatic streaks.

In preparation for making this piece, we bought an entire tree - a first for Petrel! This is a big outlay for a small workshop, but exciting too as it means we can get amazing quality, consistent colour and interesting details, which will feature throughout the finished piece. We searched long and hard to find the best possible brown oak available and were super lucky to get a superb quality specimen, from a great timber yard only an hour away from the workshop. 

These are our lovely boards (or boules as they are known when you buy the whole log) 

We hand picked this tree, as we loved the consistent deep hazel brown colour and small decorative knots (called pip - a cute name hey! But they can be a pain to deal with,  but give great character to the finished piece.)

The joy of hand picking your timber, is not only so you can get the details you're looking for, but so you also know the provenance of the timber. We believe wood is a precious resource and we take responsibility for crafting our work in woods that we can account for.

Buying from small, independent specialists, enables you to learn the backstory of the wood you buy. As I mentioned, this piece will also use incredibly valuable bog oak. 

I sourced a few boards from a renowned maker, whose dedication to getting the finest bog oak available, sees him travelling to remote fields in the Fens to unearth and assess massive prehistoric logs, to then arrange transport, cutting and conditioning. He has even built a series of custom dehumidifiers, to bring this incredible oak to a stable condition fit for fine furniture.

This process, from getting the oak out of the ground, to becoming ready for use, takes the best part of a year.  After that, once this fine material is on my bench having completed its 4000 year long journey, it is a unique feeling of responsibility. Working with bog oak demands I respect the material, cut economically, design with sensitivity and don't bugger it up!  

Now, hours and hours of careful, focused work will take this oak on to the next part of its story.

There's still plenty to do before we have a finished piece. But when it is completed, I hope our craftsmanship and our chosen design will show off this beautiful British wood and do justice to the formidable oak  tree.

You can follow our progress in finishing this piece on our twitter feed.